My in-laws Ray and Mimi McConnell own a beautiful old bed & breakfast (and brewery!) in the Midcoast Maine town of Damariscotta called Alewives & Ales.
It’s my own little slice of food heaven. Their friends are all farmers or fishermen who eat at a lot of stuff caught, killed and grown right there.
We roast pigs and lambs in the ground, eat locally caught fish and drink plenty of Ray’s homebrew, that he makes out in his super-mantown garage. It’s called “The Library” and the sign over the door says they’re “fighting illiteracy one beer at a time.”
It seems half the men in town come over for beer at some point during the week, so they call it Damariscotta’s only speakeasy.
The town of Damariscotta is on a famous oyster-farming river, so we eat plenty of fresh oysters (great with beer) and Ray makes the most incredible smoked salmon (pictured left) and smoked alewives, which run up the river by the millions each spring.
One of his specialties is an awesome Rhode Island-style clam chowder. That’s right, the nation’s smallest state has its very own clam chowder. It’s a clear broth chowder, so quite distinct for the more famous creamy New England clam chowder. It’s also quite a bit healthier.
Gillette Stadium is about 15 minutes from the Rhode Island border, and most visiting teams stay in Providence, not in Boston, so RI is definitely hard-core Patriots country.
Ray worked at a pub on Block Island as a kid where he learned the make the state’s unique chowder (most people even in Massachusetts have never even heard of it). It’s very simple but incredibly tasty, a great way to offer an authentic taste of New England during your tailgate parties.
Homemade Rhode Island-Style Clam Chowder
1 pound of fresh clam meat, roughly chopped (or substitute with canned clams)
4 to 5 pieces of bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 to 3 potatoes, chopped
4 8-ounce bottles of clam juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley or dill
Steam clams until shells open. Remove meat from shells, making sure to remove rough layer around the neck. Best to save the juice and use it for the stock, but you’ll still need to add some bottled juice to get enough.
Chop clam meat roughly. Or just use canned clam meat. Put meat in a bowl and let cool (you can prepare clams a day before if you wanted). Chop one or two pieces of uncooked bacon and mix in with clam meat. Render remaining three pieces of bacon in skillet. Remove bacon, leaving fat in the pan. Eat bacon. You don't need it anymore.
Remove skillet from heat, add onion and return to very low heat. Cook slowly until onion softens and grows translucent, stopping before the onion gets browned. Add 32 ounces of clam juice. Add clam meat mixed with raw bacon. Add potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat until potatoes are soft, but not mushy. Garnish with fresh parsley or dill. Serves 4.